2017-06-15 / Sports

Rudyard Bulldogs Baseball Team Wins Regional, Moves On to Quarterfinals

By Kevin R. Hess

It has been an up-and-down season for the Rudyard Bulldogs baseball team offensively, but they have come through in the clutch in the postseason, winning the district and regional championships. Rudyard defeated Wakefield- Marenisco and Inland Lakes to win the Division 4 Regional, Saturday, June 10, in Rudyard.

In the championship game, it was a battle between the Bulldogs of Rudyard and the Bulldogs of Inland Lakes. Rudyard fell behind early but rallied to defeat Inland Lakes 5-2 in a game where hits were hard to come by. After both teams were hitless in the first inning, Rudyard got on the board in the top of the second on a two-out, RBI single by the ninth place hitter Tanner Norton. James Burton led off the inning with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Gavin Smith, and moved to third on a ground out before scoring on Norton’s base hit. Inland Lakes responded in the bottom of the inning, scoring two runs. With runners on first and third and nobody out, Burton, Rudyard’s pitcher, made an errant throw on a pickoff attempt, allowing the runner to score. The second run scored on a passed ball. Inland Lakes led 2-1 after two innings.

The lead did not last long, as Rudyard scored two runs of their own in the third, one on an error, and one on a Burton RBI single to give them a 3-2 lead. Rudyard scored two more in the fourth as Cody Coffey brought home a run on a ground out and Mills scored on an error. Four of Rudyard’s five runs were scored with two outs.

Trent MacDowell came on in relief of Burton and held Inland Lakes to just one hit and two base runners over the final four innings. Both runners were eliminated by double plays. Between the two pitchers, they faced the minimum three batters each of the final five innings, shutting down Inland Lakes and securing the championship.

Burton and Norton had two hits and one RBI each, accounting for all four of Rudyard’s hits. Jace Jenerou and Dylan Mills had two stolen bases. Burton started on the mound, pitching three innings and allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits, striking out six. Mac- Dowell pitched the final four innings, allowing no runs on one hit. He struck out two.

“Our seniors stepped up big for us,” said Rudyard Head Coach Jim Smith. “Burton, Coffey, and MacDowell all pitched well.”

Rudyard 5, Wakefield-Marenisco 4

Rudyard had to rally in game one of the regionals to get to the championship, scoring the winning run in the final inning to defeat Wakefield-Marenisco 5-4. After Cody Coffey reached on an error to start the bottom of the seventh inning, Jace Jenerou tripled to bring him home and earn Rudyard a trip to the regional championship.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 4- 0 lead, scoring twice each in the third and fourth innings. In the third, Rudyard scored twice on two Wakefield errors. In the fourth inning, Dylan Mills singled home a run and Coffey followed with a triple, scoring Mills. Rudyard led 4-0 after four innings. With bases loaded after a single and two hit batters, Wakefield scored twice in the top of the fifth on a double. Rudyard was able to limit the damage, stranding Wakefield runners and second and third base. The scored remained 4-2 until the top of the seventh when Wakefield rallied to tie the game, scoring on a Rudyard error and a double. With runners at second and third and nobody out, Rudyard’s James Burton struck out the next batter, then picked off the runner at third. Burton closed the inning with another strikeout, keeping the game tied at 4-4, setting up the walk off triple by Jenerou in the bottom of the inning.

“We’ve had to grind everything out this year,” said Smith. “Nearly all of our games have been tight.”

Rudyard advances to face Gaylord St. Mary’s at Gaylord High School Tuesday, June 13. The two teams split a doubleheader May 30 in Rudyard. St. Mary’s won game one 2-1, and Rudyard won game two 5-1.

“We feel good about our chances,” said Smith. “If we throw strikes and limit our mistakes, I feel pretty good that we will walk away with a win.”

The winner Tuesday will advance to play in the semifinals in East Lansing Friday and Saturday, June 16 and 17.

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